The look of newspapers to come: Free targeted Thursday and Sunday home delivery and free at the newsstand

By Mick Gregory

A street smart publishing group that started with a sweet deal from the former Hearst San Francisco Examiner has the business model that I predict will sweep the newspaper industry within the next decade.

Clarity Media Group, which ownes the free Examiner newspapers in Washington, D.C., Baltimore and San Francisco, plans to add a Sunday edition to each and expand the current Thursday editions, the company revealed Thursday.

Home delivery, which had been delivered each weekday, will be scaled back to only Thursday and Sunday, according to Clarity Media Group CEO Ryan McKibben. “We are shuffling assets that were of marginal value to better serve the reader pre-weekend and Sunday and on the web,” he told E&P. “They have the most opportunity and the most demand.”

The free Examiner papers are owned by the Anschutz Company, controlled by Denver-based billionaire Philip Anschutz, who launched them in 2004 with the first in San Francisco, followed by those in Washington and Baltimore in 2006. Ironically the Hearst company paid first the Fong family then, indirectly Anschutz to keep the Examiner a float for a while to please the FCC. For the record, Anschutz made his billions by selling right of way to fiber optic phone and cable companies on land that he bought cheaper than dirt from failed railroad lines.

McKibben said changes also will include doubling the number of single-copy papers circulated through newspaper racks and street distribution teams and offering home delivery of the Sunday and Thursday editions.

One other big change: the newspaper bias in these newspapers is toward the right of middle.
They are considered the FOX News of print.

“When the changes begin taking effect Sunday, July 13, the Examiner will be published in its three markets Monday-through–Friday and on Sunday and home-delivered on Thursday and Sunday,” a company statement read. “The Examiner’s internet presence continues to grow and mature. Newspaper websites associated with the Washington, Baltimore and San Francisco Examiners are being upgraded to better support local newsroom operations.”

“Through extensive discussions with our readers and advertisers we have been very pleased to learn how much they value the Examiner,” McKibben added in his statement. “Also emerging from these discussions were suggestions about what would make the Examiner even more relevant to them. Consumers and advertisers alike confirm the significant value provided by our subscription-free newspapers and the Examiners’ strong emphasis on local news.”

Editors fired for sickening bias. How could that be?

Publisher Says Under Oath: Firings Involved Biased Reporting, Disloyalty

Mick Gregory

Santa Barbara News-Press owner and co-publisher Wendy McCaw testified Tuesday that concerns about biased reporting and disloyalty, not union activity in the newsroom, led to the firing of eight reporters earlier this year.

Ms. McCaw said she began directing managers to correct what she saw as biased reporting soon after buying the paper in 2000 because the problem was hurting the paper’s credibility.

During questioning, attorney Barry Cappello, who represents the newspaper, asked McCaw if two reporters had been fired in January because of union activity.

“No,” McCaw answered strongly.

She added that six employees had been fired for disloyalty after they held signs over a freeway overpass urging people to cancel subscriptions.

The six others were terminated the next month after protesting the two previous firings and urging residents to cancel subscriptions, the union-based, leftist National Labor Relations Board attorney has said.

The NLRB is trying to get all eight former employees reinstated with back pay.

McCaw shot back with a front-page note to readers saying those who quit were upset they could no longer inject their personal opinions into the newspaper’s coverage.

McCaw testified Tuesday that she considered it disloyal when the six newsroom employees displayed the signs above the freeway.

“It was disparaging our product and it was also trying to create financial harm,” she said.

McCaw said she did not order Associate Editor Scott Steepleton to fire the six workers but supported his decision.

Cappello produced several e-mails and handwritten notes sent by McCaw beginning in 2003 complaining about bias in stories, including an item about a plan by the Hope Ranch Association to kill coyotes on the property.

“It was anti-coyote,” McCaw said in explaining why she thought the story was biased. “It was very negative toward those poor animals who are on the verge of being annihilated.”

In other memos, McCaw said she was “sick” of the bias and called it “disgusting.”

On cross-examination by NLRB attorney Brian Gee, McCaw said she believed Steepleton had helped eliminate bias from the paper, although she said she did not know whether he had conducted any training for employees or produced any guidelines for unbiased reporting.

The hearing began on Aug. 14 and was expected to end this week. It targets Ampersand Publishing LLC, the paper’s corporate parent.

McCaw was called to testify in defense of the newspaper that has a circulation of 38,000 and covers the wealthy coastal community of Santa Barbara.

She said she has been concerned about biased reporting since buying the paper from the New York Times.

“For a paper to have credibility, the stories need to be neutral and the readers need to make up their own minds,” McCaw testified.

Cappello said no employees have ever been terminated for taking pro-union or anti-union positions.

He said the goal of the union was not higher wages or better working conditions. Instead, it wanted to take control of the newspaper, so the owner and publisher have no involvement in how stories are written or published, he said.

I’ll report updates as they roll in.

The Top 10 signs your newspaper has entered the spiral flush

Mick Gregory

Here is another gem by “Joe Grimm,” advising journalisits on their shaky careers. He’s a big, fat, older white guy working for the Detroit Free Press. I believe he gets paid to write this advice on the job. It gives him some extra status among the elite editors. Maybe the Free Press even gets a few resumes from “talented” journos at 30,000 circultation papers in Podunk?

Let me know if you enjoy reading these slice of life stories as much as I do. I add my insider remarks throughout. BTW-There aren’t really top 10 signs your newspaer job is going down the toilet. There are too many signs to count. In fact, most newspaper journalists are “floaters.” You know what I mean, those stubborn turds that float back after you flush.

Do Warning Signs Mean I Should Go?
Q. Lately a few things have been happening in our newspaper company that I see as troubling, and I’m wondering if I should prepare to look elsewhere for a job. Buddy, you should have been looking for a new job a year ago.

Recently a couple publishers were fired. An official reason was never released, and I am not sure if they are looking for new publishers. (Publishers are the BIG SUITS). These mainly middle-age white men made a good living off the sweat of bright-eyed socialist reporters willing to work 60 hours a week for $30,000 a year.

Our previous publisher also decided he couldn’t pay $500 to send 10 of us to a local conference that would have had a big impact on our reporting. $50 per head for a little seminar. That’s the publisher’s bar tab for some cheap Central Valley white wine on one night out.

I’ve heard my editor on the phone casually mention that the only paper in our group that’s doing well had been marked for shutdown by an editor who left here months ago. The rest of our newspapers have been bleeding circulation like stuck pigs, despite our attempts to gain new subscribers. Our Web site, however, has been doing quite well with hits. Kiddo, it’s not the number of hits, it’s your demos and advertisers willing to place an ad schedule in your media.

We’ve also been under a hiring freeze since last fall, which hasn’t impacted our newsroom, but rather the secretarial staff. Hey, that’s a year, an entire budget cycle. How big is your newsroom? I didn’t catch that.

On the bright side, the company hasn’t frozen much else. I received a raise during my review earlier this year, and we recently bought a new computer to replace one that had finally called it quits. Hey, they actually let you work on a computer that runs? Mr. Grimm might call that a plus! How much was your raise, may I ask?

Every “10 signs your company is headed toward layoffs” site has indicated that something is up at my company. Then again, a lot of those signs are things newspapers are going through all over. I don’t know what to believe.

Ultimately I need to know if I should start applying for new jobs. I’ve gotten more than two years of experience here, so I think I could find a new job, but I had been hoping to stay for another year so I could get an even better job and wait for my boyfriend to finish school.

Still Working

A. By Joe Grimm.

Stay cool.

There is a lot going on — at your place and at others. Yeah, a lot of running around “scooping” the local weekly. That’s a lot. Sort of. It really doesn’t matter to the reader if you scoop another medium on a story. News is a very perishable commodity.

In addition to the warnings, you’ve received some encouragement. Yeah, they replaced your 12-year-old baige computer with a 2-year-old hand-me-down from a failing small daily in your chain. Right?

You don’t want to leave yet, so I wouldn’t. But I would be prepared.

Pay attention to bigger signs: A change in ownership. Multiple rounds of buyouts or layoffs. The sudden loss of a major advertiser. The signs you’ve mentioned are stressful, but don’t indicate an imminent death.
Yeah, wait around until they have that group anouncement when you and 50 others with your exact skill set are out on the street.

Have a fresh resume on your own computer, ready to go out in the mail or digitally. Keep topping your own best work. Pay off those credit cards and bank some money. And keep your network fresh. You’ll probably be able to make another year there as you would like, and can launch a search if you must.

Think of getting a real education with evening courses in business, law or engineering. Did you know that law firms actually pay their interns $1,000 to $2,000 a week?

How much do small dailies pay interns? Do a little digging and report back to us.